1925 | Rancho Ko-Mat-Ke

1346 E. South Mountain Ave.

In 1925 the population of Phoenix was just over 30,000 and the city limits lay over 6 miles north of what is now South Mountain Park. In that year, John and Helen Albrecht purchased 36 acres of citrus and date groves south of the Highline Canal and began construction of their two-story Mission Revival home. The house has 5 bedrooms — each with its own bathroom — and is built of tufa, a volcanic stone that is lightweight and soft, making it a good building material. The fireplace in the main sitting room and the archways are also made of tufa.

The Albrechts called their home Rancho Ko-Mat-Ke, and I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to find the origin or meaning of that name. An AZCentral article states that the phrase means “hump-turtle’s back” in the O’odham language. However, a small town in the Gila River Indian Community is called Komatke (Komaḍk in O’odham) and according to its Wikipedia page the name refers to the Sierra Estrella Mountains. I also found a 2017 article in the Arizona Republic that suggests the name refers to “a blue hazy mountain” and may have been an early name for South Mountain Park, which brings us full circle, doesn’t it? If any of you have additional info on the meaning of Ko-Mat-Ke, please leave a comment!

The family rented rooms in their “spacious country house” to vacationers from October through June for $35-$70 per week. The property had areas for shuffleboard, badminton and croquet, as well as glassed-in sun porches and views of the city to the north. John Albrecht died in 1945 and the property changed hands several times before being acquired by the city of Phoenix in 1972 and repurposed as the Southern Division of the Phoenix Parks Department. You can find the house today in Circle K Park at 13th St. and South Mountain Ave.

Historic photos by McCulloch Brothers Inc. 1940. Courtesy of ASU Libraries Digital Repository.

1929 | Martha Shemer’s Childhood Home

 

317 W. Cypress

Shemer Art Center

This has got to be one of the prettiest houses in Willo (IMHO). This Spanish Colonial Revival home sits on a double lot and was built in 1929 by prominent Phoenix builder, J. H. Kline. It’s classic Spanish Revival architecture, with a low-pitched red tile roof, small front patio, large picture windows, and that lovely rounded front door. But take a closer look at the shape of the large picture windows – those are Tudor-arched windows. So much for stylistic purity, right?

This house is also interesting to me because it was the childhood home of Martha Evvard Shemer, founder of the Shemer Art Center on Camelback Road in the Arcadia neighborhood. Martha moved to Phoenix when she was a child and went to Phoenix Union High School. She got married instead of going to college, but she had a keen knack for real estate and made a fortune buying land, holding it and selling for a profit. The legend is that she invested in acres of land on the South side of Camelback Mountain when there wasn’t much of anything around there. People thought she was making a mistake. Then she bought land on the north side of the mountain and people thought she had lost her mind. Boy did she prove them wrong! In the late 1980s she purchased the house that is now the Shemer Art Center. It was an Arcadia landmark and she wanted to make sure it was preserved so she donated the house and the land to the City of Phoenix, who turned the responsibility for it over to the newly created Commission for the Arts. If you haven’t been there, go. It’s truly a Phoenix Point of Pride.

1928 | The Joe Barta House

1801 PALMCROFT DRIVE NE

 

This is one of the most creative houses in Encanto-Palmcroft! It was built in 1928 for Joe Barta, owner of Butcher Boy meat markets, and designed by prominent Phoenix architect, Dwight Chenault. What makes this house so creative and one of my personal favorites, is that it was designed to look like a Mexican village, with masses of various shapes and heights. Many Spanish Revival homes used massing to imitate the look of an old village but this one takes the notion and really runs with it. The house is built around a front courtyard with fountain, designed to look like a central plaza. On the right side of the courtyard is a large round wood door surrounded by scalloped plaster work that makes this mass look like a church. Across the “plaza” is a winding exterior staircase that leads to a landing with another door and archways that lead the eye further up the imaginary hill this “village” is built on. Chenault didn’t forget the details, either. Tile accents, stained glass and windows of various sizes and shapes further suggest the look of individual buildings, rather than a single home.

1928 | Spanish Colonial Revival

1001 E OCOTILLO RD.

 

Update: I have recently learned from the home’s owner that this home was not part of the Pope Lime Company or occupied by the owner. Thanks for the clarification!

 

Another in my “not where you expect it to be” series! I stumbled upon this 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival home while showing a1950s ranch house down the street. Aerial maps from the 30s show this home sitting alone among citrus orchards – quite possibly part of the Pope Lime Company estate (although I can’t confirm the Pope family ever lived in the house). The 2-story home sits on a third of an acre at the northwest corner of the old citrus grove and boasts 2,481 square feet, multiple fireplaces, coved ceilings, wood floors, grand staircase, several balconies, roof-top deck and a finished basement. When it was built it towered over the lime trees and would have been seen from a distance — a testament to the prosperity of small-scale farm owners in the valley.

1926 | Spanish Farmhouse

2241 E WHITTON, PHOENIX

Once in awhile I stumble upon a hidden gem that is a testament to our agricultural heritage. This is an example of one — a lovely 2-story farm house situated on 1/3 acre in the middle of town near Osborn and 24th St. The neighborhood is now called Loma Linda, and modest ranch homes surround this lush, gated compound. When it was built in 1926, it was one of several large homes in the area that housed the families of farmers and those who just wanted to be “out in the country.” In the hot summers the family would put mattresses on the balcony upstairs and sleep under the stars to keep cool.

1930 | Adobe Spanish Colonial Revival

58 W WILSHIRE, PHOENIX

I love this house because of that window! You should see it at night with a 10ft Christmas tree — stunning. The other thing I love about it is that it’s built of adobe (at least partially). Adobe is the natural building material of the Southwest — the thick walls keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter. The simple mud bricks are often made right on site from the earth that has been removed for the foundations. The owner of this home was so happy when she found the adobe walls while renovating the kitchen. Many adobe home owners have what is known as an “honesty window” where the adobe is visible and this owner left the adobe exposed after the remodel. A good friend of mine lives in this house and I have to admit I am more than a little jealous!